The Croup

Frosted Field by Richard Reeve

The lungs and the larynx

so weakened by the delivery

that at ten years old

I was the kid

seated in the back corner

of the classroom

sounding off in triplets,

a wheezing cough

you might mistake

for emphysema,

disrupting the class

till I’d be sent on silly errands

so the other kids could try to focus

on their lessons.

Often it was to give the janitor

a message, Mr. Mercury,

a retiree that carved walking sticks

out of maple saplings, the root balls

providing provocative crowns

to each of his staffs.

He’d let me handle his pocket knife

and work along some roughness

he had yet to attend to.

Till this day, he defines for me

kindness and care,

and has continued as my guide

for what it means to be human.

Pirating

North Branch by Richard Reeve

My grandfather,

before I was school aged,

would take me tromping

through the woods.

I’d carry

a short fishing rod

and a kreel.

When we reached

the crik, a tiny stream

even then I could jump

in places,

onto the hook

he would place

a kernel of corn,

then proceed

to show me

where to drop the line

so the bait would be pulled

to where he suspected

a trout lay in wait.

To lift a brookie!

a tiny trout, no more

than seven inches,

bounty from the stream.

With six small fish

added to the kreel,

our lunch secured,

we’d head deeper

into the woods

to the remnants

of abandoned homesteads,

the stone foundations

all that remained.

We’d turn the soil

with a hand shovel.

until a bottle or tin can

from the previous century

emerged.

When we meet again

the first thing I’ll ask:

Grandpa, when can we

go pirating again?